Jodie Cole, I am not in love

Posted: April 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jodie Cole, I am not in love

Jodie Cole, I am not in love, Salisbury Arts Centre, March 30

Jodie Cole in I am not in love (photo © Foteini Christofilopoulou)

Jodie Cole in I am not in love (photo © Foteini Christofilopoulou)

Jodie Cole’s I am not in love uses the stage as a means to communicate an intensely personal reflection on life and love; it has no pretensions to theatre or dance and yet it belongs to both. Such is the intimate quality of the work it could have been a poem on a page or a song on a musical stave, but Cole is clearly in her element on the stage, becoming both the subject and the object of her reflection. She arrives wearing a cycling helmet and a wind jacket as if she has just left her bicycle in the lobby, except that her feet are bare and under the jacket she wears a black, backless dress. While her initial appearance lacks any artifice, it hides the dual nature of I am not in love: within an exploration of the language of performance is a confessional narrative about libido — eros veering off into the erotic. The transformation happens quickly before Cole has even introduced herself: in helmet and jacket she turns her back to the audience and embraces herself to a clip of the song I’m not in love over which we hear her mounting cries of pleasure. It is a shorthand communication of the qualities that will drive the work: frankness, humour and sensuality. She vibrates and shakes as if giving birth to her thoughts and she choreographs short songs with a fluidity that softens the hard-hitting nature of the narrative. The message of I am not in love is built from the interconnected levels of anecdote, analogy and action: a memory of her mother telling her not to wander round the house naked in front of her father; talking of cycling as both a favourite mode of transport and a deep sensation in her stomach; and using the bicycle pump on stage as a comic demonstration of deflation, either from rejection in love or the rejection of a foetus. She is not sure if she wants children, but her relationships lead her to that door even if she never goes through it; she dances her states of desire but ends each episode with a broken relationship told with a matter-of-fact delivery that belies the emotional turmoil she has experienced. We are thus taken on a journey of sensation in constant flux in which for a few delightful minutes our own vulnerabilities and longing are mirrored, celebrated and assuaged. What she comes to understand at the end, which she shares through a recording of a self-help talk, is that love and forgiveness of oneself are a vital component of love and forgiveness of the other. It is not Cole’s voice, however, but a note for herself, one that reminds us of the confessional aspect of her work but leaves her without her own conclusion. Cole has introduced herself with such candour that we can sympathise with her, laugh with her and support her, but having bared her soul, we are not sure where she wants to go from here, nor where she wants to take us.

I am not in love is part of an evening of short works-in-progress called Practice at Salisbury Arts Centre. The purpose is to give artists a ‘platform for testing new and innovative contemporary performance in front of a live audience.’ It’s a varied program in two different spaces within the Centre. Jim Read’s Want to Dance is an engaging, brave monologue about the unexpected effects of his successful participation in a Parkinson’s Dance group; Tam Gilbert’s Sensing Helen is a sensorial exploration of Victorian life in Dorset for the deaf and blind that parallels the story of Helen Keller; and Broken Spectacles’ At Sea fashions stories of mythological selkies through the clever use of cardboard boxes, voices, puppets and magic. All four works are in development and a thoughtful session following the performances, led by director Paula Redway, encouraged the artists to present their creative processes and audience members to respond or ask questions. For those in the audience who could not stay there was a feedback form on which the final question was along the lines of, ‘Which of the four works would you like to see developed?’ To a large extent I am not in love has already been developed and seems, if not quite fulfilled, to stand on its own. The question for Cole is not how to develop the work so much as how to develop her choreographic voice.